The Beat Goes On: Django in June returns, Watermelon Wednesdays helps celebrate Whately’s 250th anniversary, and more

  • Rhythm Future Quartet plays Friday at the Academy of Music as part of the Django in June series in Northampton. CONTRIBUTED/ANDREW LAWRENCE

  • Clarinetist Alexandre Riberio will join other Brazilian musicians June 25 at the Academy of Music for ChoroFest NoHo, a concert showcasing traditional Brazilian music. Image courtesy Andrew Lawrence

  • Vocalist Zara Bode of The Sweetback Sisters brings a new project, Zara Bode’s Little Big Band, to Whately Town Hall June 22 to play swing music. Image from Facebook

  • Bluegrass specialists Poor Monroe play Whately Town Hall June 23 as part of the Watermelon Wednesdays series. Image from Poor Monroe website 

  • Acclaimed country/blues/rock singer-songwriter John Hiatt brings his band to the Academy of Music June 22. Image from John Hiatt website

  • Country singer/songwriter Brandy Clark, who added to her various Grammy Award nominations this year, plays Race Street Live in Holyoke June 18. Image from Brandy Clark website

  • Red-hot jazz drummer Blaque Dynamite, aka Mike Mitchell, brings his ensemble to the Drake in Amherst June 18. Image from Blaque Dynamite website

  • The long-running Celtic band Gaelic Storm plays Northampton’s Calvin Theatre June 19. Image from IHEG website

  • Daniel Garlitsky, left, and Duved Dunayevsky of Paris bring their Django Reinhardt chops and general vibe to the Academy of Music June 18. Photo by JULIEN FARHI/courtesy Andrew Lawrence

Staff Writer
Published: 6/16/2022 6:29:46 PM

Like so many other other concerts and musical events during the past two years, Django in June, the long-running gypsy jazz workshop and concert series in Northampton, was canceled in 2020 and 2021 because of the pandemic.

It was a tough blow for Andrew Lawrence, the Valley guitar teacher who started Django in June in the early 2000s as a one-day workshop and expanded it to a weeklong fest with up to 300 students, teachers and performers, all hooked on jazz manouche, the swinging sound popularized in the 1930s by French guitarist Django Reinhardt.

It’s a testament to the connections Lawrence has made with so many musicians over the years that many of them raised several thousand dollars for him through a GoFundMe campaign to help him recoup lost income during the worst of COVID-19.

“I was really touched,” Lawrence said in a recent phone call. “I hadn’t asked for that, so to see that kind of support from the community felt really special.” (He’s been living for a good part of the past two years in Brazil, as his wife is a Brazilian academic who previously taught at Smith College.)

But this year — this week, actually — Django in June has returned to its familiar turf on the Smith College campus, and some of its key instructors are set to play the Academy of Music tonight (Friday, June 17) and June 18 at 7:30 p.m.

Lawrence said the problems that still exist in international travel due to COVID-19 led him to book fewer European artists this year. But so many more North American players have taken up gypsy jazz since he began Django in June, he noted, that he was able to “bring in some artists from here that I’ve been watching for a while. This seemed like the perfect time to give them a chance to play.”

Tonight, Canadian guitarist Debi Botos, who has Hungarian roots, will be joined by a few other performers for her first Django in June show. Lawrence says Botos began at the camp as a student, quickly moved on to become a teacher, and now brings her love of Reinhardt’s music and a background in Hungarian folk and dance music to the stage.

Also playing June 17 is the Rhythm Future Quartet, an acoustic jazz ensemble that includes three members based in New England. “They’re killer musicians,” Lawrence said.

On June 18, musical Renaissance man Matt Munisteri — a jazz guitarist, singer, and songwriter from New York City — comes to the Academy, where he’ll be joined by some special guests for a show called “Django de mes Reves” (Django of my Dreams). It’s a program, Munisteri says, that consists of songs Reinhardt might have written had he lived longer.

Rounding out the June 18 show is a jazz manouche ensemble led by the Israel-born, Paris-based guitarist Duved Dunayevsky, a previous Django in June performer who’s now become one of the foremost contemporary interpreters of Reinhardt’s musical and cultural vibe, Lawrence says.

Meanwhile, Lawrence has also brought back a second roots music camp and concert he started in 2019 that’s dedicated to Choro, a traditional Brazilian sound that incorporates elements of Portuguese/European classical music with Afro-Brazilian rhythms. Choro ensembles are typically built around instruments such as guitars, mandolins, fiddles, flutes and clarinets, and hand drums.

On June 25 at the Academy, several of the musicians who teach at Choro Camp, held the week of June 20-25 at Smith College, will take the stage at 7:30 p.m. for ChoroFest Noho, playing a variety of music on clarinet, guitar, bandolim, accordion and more — and they’ll all be playing together for the first time, Lawrence notes.

“Choro is really a national treasure of Brazil,” he said. “My hope is that we can build an audience for it here.”


Watermelon Wednesdays, the summer acoustic music series started in 2000 in the cozy West Whately Chapel, is back in business for 2022, and next week there are two shows on the books, June 22 and 23 (Watermelon Thursdays, anyone?), that will actually take place at 7 p.m. at Whately Town Hall as part of the town’s 250th anniversary festivities.

On June 22, Zara Bode, one of the two lead singers for longtime Valley favorites The Sweetback Sisters, will lead her side group, Zara Bode’s Little Big Band, through a range of the great American songbook, with an emphasis on fresh interpretations of classic swing by Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald and others.

Whereas The Sweetback Sisters have long been steeped in country and juiced along by guitar and fiddle, the Little Big Band features a busy horn section led by clarinetist and composer Anna Patton; Sweetback Sisters drummer Stefan Amidon is also part of the group.

On June 23, Poor Monroe brings its energetic bluegrass to Whately Town Hall; the band is made up of four friends and musical collaborators from New England, including Easthampton-based singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist Eric Lee on fiddle and Sean Davis of Mamma’s Marmalade on guitar.


If it feels like singer-songwriter John Hiatt has been around for ages, keep in mind he’ll turn 70 in a couple months. And for about 40 of those years, scores of other artists have been recording his songs.

Along the way, Hiatt has been nominated for nine Grammy Awards and won a number of other honors for tunes that encompass blues, country, roots rock and even a bit of New Wave.

On June 22 at 8 p.m., he comes to the Academy of Music with his band The Goners, which features slide guitarist extraordinaire Sonny Landreth. Hiatt will have plenty of material to choose from: He’s recorded 20 studio albums over the years.

The Suitcase Junket, the one-man band “led” by the Valley’s Matt Lorenz, opens the show.

More music on tap


The Lonesome Brothers are also helping Whately celebrate its 250th anniversary; the veteran country rockers will play Tom’s Hot Dog in town Friday (June 17) at 6 p.m.

Another country-influenced singer/songwriter with several Grammy nominations to her name, Brandy Clark, plays Race Street Live in Holyoke on June 18 at 8 p.m. Indie folk duo High Tea opens the show.

Not a singer/songwriter, and not country: Blaque Dynamite (aka Mike Mitchell) is an acclaimed 20-something jazz drummer who’s already collaborated with marquee names including Herbie Hancock, Stanley Clarke and Chick Corea. “No words can describe this man’s extraordinary power, speed, velocity, feel and groove,” says one reviewer. He brings his ensemble to the Drake in Amherst June 18 at 8 p.m.

Also on June 18, Luthiers’s Co-op in Easthampton offers a nice mix of sounds with guitarist/songwriter “Jukebox” Jake Goldstein, who plays a mix of folk, country and rock from 7 to 8 p.m.; Ch’Chunk!, a Valley swing jazz band that gigs from 8 to 9:30 p.m.; and Tom Pearo, who offers spacey guitar sounds from 9:30 to 11 p.m.

In Easthampton as well, singer-songwriter Emma Ayres celebrates the release of a new album, “Hard Work,” alongside some musical friends at the Marigold Theater on June 18 at 9 p.m.

The venerable Gaelic Storm beings its Celtic sounds to Northampton’s Calvin Theatre on June 19 at 7 p.m.

In Florence, The Bombyx Center for Arts & Integrity offers two shows on June 19. Illegal Crown, a jazz quartet made up of three Americans and one Frenchman, will debut its eclectic repertoire at 3 p.m., while jazz, electronic fusion, and funk ensemble Freelance, out of Harlem, plays at 7 p.m.

Oh, and in case you’ve been out of town for quite awhile and hadn’t heard the news, the Green River Festival takes place June 24-26 at the Franklin County Fairgrounds in Greenfield. With some 34 acts in the lineup, there will be plenty of musical variety. All the details are at

Steve Pfarrer can be reached at spfarrer@gaze

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